Spring inspires me to get dolled up. I watch Mother Nature begin to dress herself with blooming flowers and realize that I can finally break out my dresses and wear them without freezing. This is a happy day for me. I started collecting vintage dresses in high school and have an entire closet full of them, much to my husband’s dismay. I get two closets and he gets one.

As a girl who has always been creatively inclined, I see my body as a canvas that exists to express my personality. This is why I have several tattoos. I’m getting my ninth on an upcoming trip to Seattle with my girlfriends, much to my mother’s dismay.

I like tattoos because they’re permanent, not something that takes time every day like makeup, which I wear, but only because I’ve learned to apply it quickly.

Before I could legally get tattoos, my hair was my favorite canvas for self-expression. I haven’t seen my natural hair color since I was 15. It’s been every shade of the rainbow and once I literally striped it like a rainbow using markers. Yeah, markers. I’ve also used Kool-Aid as dye along with Manic Panic, which comes in tons of colors, but has to be touched up every two weeks. And it’s messy. I destroyed my parents’ bathroom with that stuff.

Debbie at Bertuca Salon in Forest Park changed that for me. I went to see her when my hair was a wreck of very permanent black and semi-permanent pink and blue. I asked her to do the impossible: make me blonde. She succeeded. A few years later when I wanted to get funky again, she found a line of bright, unnatural colors that last for almost six weeks. My hair can be any strange shade I desire, Debbie does all the work, and my bathroom goes unscathed.

There is a part of my canvas that has long been neglected though – my fingernails. I’m terrible at painting them myself and shelling out for a manicure is a waste. Between my klutziness and my bartending job my nails are chipped within a day.

Bertuca Salon to the rescue again! While Debbie was doing my hair in January, they got a shipment of supplies. “The chip-free manicure stuff is here!” one of the nail technicians exclaimed gleefully. It was a new product that was supposed to last weeks without chipping.

Before my next hair appointment, I called to ask about it, expecting to have to pay a lot. As it turned out, it was only $35 to get it done – a mere $15 more than a regular manicure. I was assured that the salon employees had tried it out and it actually worked. “Your nails grow out before it chips,” Debbie told me.

Last week I got my nails done with Dorota, a sweet lady who handled my writerly curiosity by talking me through the steps of the manicure. She and Debbie timed everything perfectly so I was still out of there in the time it usually took to do my hair. I’ve worked four shifts at the bar and my nails are still a flawless shade of purplish-black.

Affordable, fast, and lasting – that’s how I like my beauty rituals.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.